Redefining Community: The Evolution of Sawtelle Japantown

Redefining Community: The Evolution of Sawtelle Japantown is a machinima documentary (short animated documentary film) about the history of Japanese Americans in the Sawtelle area of Los Angeles (now known as Sawtelle Japantown).

Sawtelle Minecraft Machinima

The documentary is intended to appeal to people of all ages because of its engaging animation style. The movie consists of animation, historical photographs, archival video footage, and audio narration in a documentary-style format. The animation is created using the video game Minecraft, which will be used to recreate a 3D virtual environment of Sawtelle in the 1930s-70s along with animations of people living there.

Narration of the machinima comes from over 20 oral history interviews of people who resided in Sawtelle before and after World War II. The use of the oral histories as narration in the machinima brings to life the significant stories embedded throughout these first-person accounts of the history of Sawtelle. The documentary is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2018 and will be shown at various public presentations in the Los Angeles area and online.

The style of the documentary will be similar to this machinima documentary that was produced by the same team:

This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit This project is also supported by the George and Sakaye Aratani CARE grant of UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center.

For more information about the documentary, please contact us.

To help us offer future screenings and create educational curriculum using the documentary, please consider making a tax-deductible donation via our Support Us page.

Kobayakawa Boarding House

Kobayakawa Boarding House

Kobayakawa Boarding House

Kobayakawa Boarding House in Minecraft